. . . . previously, I’d behaved rather badly, I’m told, at Heathrow Airport security and been x-rayed, questioned and generally humiliated at many points throughout the airport. I maintain I was just tired and a wee bit grumpy from a 5 a.m. start.
Ten hours after escaping the claws of the airport security reich and having been awake for 20 hours we were welcomed to Calgary – the home of the Calgary Stampede – by Cowboy Bob standing at the top of an escalator in his ten gallon hat, a pleasing change from Stalag Heathrow.
The immigration officer, rather worryingly dressed in a bullet proof vest, was abrupt but business-like wording his short questions for the sleep-deprived and only detaining us for a few seconds.
The Canadian customs officer actually had a sense of humor and commiserated with us for being tired and many time zones from our departure point at Heathrow. It was all going smoothly for two weary travelers and we were still in good spirits at that stage.
Walking tentatively, gazing around and pushing a wayward cart loaded with two weight limit suitcases and two well overweight carry-ons, we must have looked suitably befuddled for an obliging uniformed aide to come to our rescue. “What is your destination?”
Helpfully, it was the only question our addled brains could answer, “Seattle.”
“You need U.S. Customs. It’s upstairs,” and she gave a stewardess-type sweep of the hand to direct us. With new found determination, we strode through the indicated automatic doors, through a lobby, past some shops and found ourselves out on the street at the taxi rank.
“This isn’t right.”
“No, it isn’t.” Stating the obvious is often a delaying tactic while we pull ourselves together. We headed back for the automatic doors and stopped short as they closed in our face, with a big red NO ENTRY symbol staring back at us. With little mental stamina left to guide us, we doggedly retraced our steps out onto the street again.
“This isn’t right.” Tiredness was limiting our vocabulary.
So there we stood, two dunderheads, two experienced trans-Atlantic travelers, who have hopped from London to Baltimore, Seattle and Phoenix, changing planes in New York, Reykjavik, Denver, Paris, Detroit, Toronto, Washington D.C., Montreal, Chicago, Copenhagen, Boston and Vancouver – some of the busiest airports in the world – and yet we stood outside at the curb at Calgary Airport at a complete loss at how to proceed.
“Let’s go back to the doors. We’ll wait for someone to come out,then shoot back in before they close.”
“But they’re no entry.”
“What do you suggest? Take a taxi to Seattle from here?”
Like a couple of illegal immigrants (technically we were as we stood on the street not having cleared immigration in Canada) we waited for someone on the right side of the doors to come out so we could bound through them. That someone was a flight attendant we recognized from our flight. “Can I help you?” he asked in a blessedly non-menacing way as we trespassed.
He took us through some unmarked doors, along a secret passage, pointed out an elevator, indicated a point on the ceiling where U.S. Customs should be “I think,” and disappeared into his phalanx of fellow Canadians.
With U.S. Customs within range, you’d think we’d be home and dry. I hope you’d be wishing us well at this point, or at least for an end to a seemingly endless tale, but there were more calamites to come.
. . . . to be continued.